This year, Blue Valley began offering a new elective for juniors and seniors called International Relations (IR).
Led by social studies teacher Brian Mowry, the class delves into reasons for conflict between countries and relating theories.
Mowry said the new class provides a fresh global outlook.
“When I got the word that Area Studies was going to be done away with last year, I wanted something else to teach and to add an international perspective,” he said. “So I thought, ‘Let’s give it a try.’”
Motivated by future career aspirations, junior Lindsay Davis enrolled in IR.
“I’m interested in majoring in International Relations,” she said. “I thought it would be a good idea to take the class before I went to college.”
Davis said she finds the unorthodox environment a better way to stimulate thought.
“We have a lot more discussions [than a regular social studies class], which is fun,” she said. “Mowry guides us, but he tries to have other people lead it — so it’s not just him standing up there and lecturing. He wants a conversation.”
Mowry said the round-table structure of IR is what the class is all about.
“The most important thing I want kids to get out of this class is for [them] to engage in dialogue, discussing high-minded things,” he said. “That’s it — engage in academic discoursing. Then, the class is a success.”
These academic conversations usually aren’t the debates that can be expected in other social studies classes, Mowry said.
“Most of the discussions are theoretical — how we think countries do things,” he said. “So we’ll say, ‘You can’t do that because you can’t trust countries,’ or ‘I think you can [for whatever reason].’ It’s not heated second-amendment type of stuff [like it is] in a government class. When I challenge you, I’m not challenging your values or who you are, I’m challenging what evidence you use. It’s not as personal, and in some ways, that’s a good thing.”
Mowry said coming into IR with little prior knowledge can be beneficial.
“The nice thing about it is very few people have baggage coming into this,” Mowry said. “Nobody knows about this stuff, so they are really looking at it with fresh eyes and then forming opinions on it.”
Not having an AP curriculum is what Mowry said differentiates IR from other classes he teaches.
“This one is just completely free,” he said. “I can do whatever I want with it, and that is very fun from the fact of there’s no College Board telling me what to do. Since it’s so high level, the kids have really realized, ‘We can’t slack and do normal high school type of stuff.’”